INTERVIEW: Ayron Jones

Born and raised amid the rich musical history of Seattle, Washington, Ayron Jones has been one of rock music’s biggest success stories of 2021. His debut solo album, “Child of the State” (he previously issued two independent releases with his band Ayron Jones and the Way), spawned the hit single “Mercy,” which spent a month as the number one song on the Mainstream Rock chart. This followed the late 2020 success of “Take Me Away,” which hit number five, while his current single, “Supercharged,” is making its way up the chart now. Jones recently called in from the road to Live Metal’s Greg Maki to discuss his album, his Seattle heritage, the return of live shows and more.

LIVE METAL: You’ve been out on tour, which is a long time coming, and I’m sure it seems even longer to you than it does to me. But you’re playing some headline shows, and you’ve got a lot of stuff coming up the rest of this year. What has it been like out there playing live again after so long?

AYRON JONES: Oh, it’s a really good feeling. Including myself, everyone’s just really excited to see live music again, or at least to toy with the idea of it. With the Delta variant being more rampant, I think people are more hesitant to go out these days. But just to have a little taste of live music, hitting the stage, being in front of people, singing my music for the first time, it’s really nice.

Has there been a different feel to how things are out there than what you were used to in the past?

I think people are more enthused to see live music right now. I think there’s been a lot more enthusiasm than there would’ve been normally.

Well, I just want to say congratulations on the success you’ve had so far. All the singles have done well. “Mercy” spent a month at number one on mainstream rock radio. What has that meant to you? Especially with that song, which I’m sure has a lot of meaning to you.

It’s a blessing. It feels good to finally be affirmed. I’ve been trying to get my name out there, and to finally see my name where I’ve always wanted to see it, it’s a true blessing.

The album, “Child of the State,” to me, seems very autobiographical. Why was it important for you to tell your story with this album?

Well, for me, it was important to tell my story because it was the first time people are getting to know me. I could have gone a number of different ways in terms of theme and the songs and all that, but I felt like the first record, just getting out there to most of the world, I think it was really, really important for me to tell my story and where I came from.

You’re from Seattle, and you’re not shy about that at all. Is that a point of pride for you?

Yeah, 100 percent, man. Being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, especially when you start touring and you realize most people have no idea what goes on in Seattle. Coming from this really small region of the United States and to be able to continue the legacy of music and culture that comes from there is a big point of pride for me, for sure.

Yeah, how has that music influenced you as a musician and artist?

It was hugely influential for me, as an artist, to be from Seattle. Not even just growing up in town, but as you get older, as you start making waves in the music scene, you start to come in contact with the cats who’ve been there before you—cats like Mike McCready, cats like Duff McKagan. I’ve worked with Barrett Martin, the legendary Jack Endino. These cats are all people that have had their hands in the music scene since they started, and they were very much involved. So it’s really, really important to me. It’s hugely influential to my sound and the artist that I was to become because of these cats.

I saw that last year, you got to play at the national anthem at a Seahawks game. That must have been a big thrill.

Yeah, it was a little surreal, though—empty stadium in the height of COVID. It’s definitely a point of pride and something that I really was looking forward to all this time. But also, at the same time, it was surreal to be sitting there in an empty stadium playing the national anthem. It was crazy.

Are you a big football fan?

Yeah, I’m a big Seahawks fan. I do like football, but I’m a bigger Seahawks fan, I think, than I am a football fan in general.

When were the songs on this album written and recorded?

Well, it’s kind of split. Half of the songs were written a while back. They were songs that I went back and revisited, re-recorded and rewrote and brought back to the forefront. And some of it was written in the latter half of 2020.

OK, so there was a lot of stuff, obviously, happening last year—the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and political turmoil. Did all that influence what you were writing about?

Definitely in some aspects, for sure. Some of it was just my personal experience and living and where I came from, my background. But especially with “Mercy,” that was a direct reflection of what I was going through at that time.

After watching that video, it makes me wonder what role religion or spirituality has played in your life.

I wouldn’t say religion so much as spirituality. Spirituality has been such a huge staple for me as a person, as an artist. I don’t think I could even be here if I wasn’t able to dig deep down inside and have faith in something higher than myself. I’m not a hugely religious person. I don’t subscribe to fundamental religious ideologies, but I believe that there are powers that connect us all and we can tap into that, and through that, we can achieve great things.

One of the things I really like about the album is that there are a lot of different moods, I guess you could say. You have these, obviously, very serious and deeply personal songs, like “Mercy” and “Take Me Away,” but then you have songs that, to me, just seem like fun songs, like “Hot Friends,” for example. Was that a goal of yours to incorporate all those different kinds of feelings and moods?

Yeah, absolutely. That was part of the reason that I got songwriters, because my writing style is derived from grunge, and so the tone of my music is a lot darker, and sometimes the subject matter is darker. I thought it was really important for me to capture some fun moments and to show people this is the fun side of me. Which is kind of new for me, opening up to people that way, because most people don’t get to know me at that level. But it was really important to capture the fun vibes, the fun energy of what I had in store.

If you can describe it, what is your approach to playing guitar? To me, it doesn’t sound like it’s just an instrument you have in your hands. It feels like you’re really expressing yourself and almost speaking through it. Is that how you look at it?

Absolutely, yeah. When it comes to expressing guitar, I’m a self-taught guitar player. I didn’t really learn all the basics or the fundamentals, I think, that a lot of people tend to learn when they start playing guitar. I had a more self-taught approach. Because of doing that, the guitar becomes an extension of expression and meaning for me rather than an instrument. When I play, I’m not about thinking about what mode I’m in or what scale I’m playing. I’m thinking about the feeling I have in that moment.

Are you someone who when you’re not recording or touring, you always have the guitar in your hand and just kind of noodling around with it and stuff like that?

Oh yeah, oh yeah, man. I always try to have a guitar around in any given moment. Make sure I’m staying up on my craft. But also, I’ve been playing guitar over half of my life at this point, and it’s something I can’t really see myself without. I feel awkward if I don’t have one.

Over the years, at least in pop music and popular culture, rock music and guitar have kind of fallen out of fashion a little bit, and I don’t really understand why. How do you think we can bring that back and get more kids into this music and playing?

I think, honestly, the best way to do it is to continue to display and shed a light on artists such as myself and the new age of rockers who are digging deep into classic rock. I think that part of the reason rock ‘n’ roll has become less popular is because we’ve also strayed away from what made rock ‘n’ roll so popular in the first place. It was this raw energy, which came from plugging in your guitar to an amplifier and turning it up loud. I think a lot of that’s been lost to the digital side of things. I think the more we dig into our roots and bring that forward, I think more kids are going to take to it.

As we said, you’ve got a lot of stuff coming up. You’re playing some shows with Shinedown and The Struts, festivals, a headline tour, going to Europe. Are you excited for all this? Like you said, the shows you just did were your first chance to play this new music live, right?

Right, exactly. I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve got a new band together. I can honestly say this is one of the best bands I’ve put together. I think this is going to have the highest impact, so I’m looking forward to getting out there.

Buy/stream “Child of the State”

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